South Bend council rejects smoking ban for bars

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A proposed ban on smoking inside South Bend's bars has been voted down by the city council.

Dozens of supporters and opponents of the ban spoke during Monday night's meeting before council members voted 5-4 against the proposal.

Councilwoman Valerie Schey had been an original sponsor of the ban, but voted against it. She said she changed her stance after talking with bar owners.

"On this issue, I believe we need to listen closely to those for whom this has the greatest impact, and that's the business owners," Schey said. "At the request of South Bend bar owners, I will not be supporting this bill."

South Bend bar owners argue they would lose customers because bars outside the city limits in St. Joseph County or in the neighboring city of Mishawaka could still allow smoking. A statewide smoking ban that went into effect last year prohibits smoking in restaurants and most other workplaces, but exempts bars, private clubs and casinos unless banned by local ordinances.

Councilman Gavin Ferlic, a sponsor of the South Bend proposal, said the tougher smoking ban was aimed at making the 100,000-person city a healthier place to work and disputed arguments that the ban would hurt the city's bars.

"The vast majority of all research indicates no negative economic impact," he said. "If anything, it indicates a positive economic impact."Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are among many cities around Indiana that go further than state law to prohibit smoking inside bars.

Bar owners sued Indianapolis over the ban last year but have been unsuccessful in court.

Evansville enacted a smoking ban that included bars in 2012, but the Indiana Supreme Court overturned it because it made an exemption for a casino. The court said the exemption violated the equal privileges and immunities clause of the Indiana Constitution.

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